Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Why Do You Write?"

It was an interesting question that someone asked me the other day as she bought my book. She was standing in front of me at the checkout line at the bookstore and had my book in her arm. While reading the back of the cover, she happened to look back at me. Getting an eyeful, she knit her eyebrows and looked back at the book. While she did the double take, I tried very hard not to wet my pants. I mean, come on, how many of us have that kind of thing happen? I'm not John Lescroart (my hero) or anything. It was a huge honor, and all I could think about doing is rushing home to call my mother.

My immediate thought to her question was to get all self-important and hand out some esoteric pile of dribble. But then I stopped because I could see she really wanted to know – not in a challenging way – but a, “I really want to know what drives someone to sit on their butterks for hours on end and bang out a story.”

I told her the truth – that I had a story burning inside me that wouldn’t go away, much like the tax man. But I went home and really thought about it. Why do I write? And why do I write what I write?

I had the basic groundwork for my first book for about ten years. Why did I chose docs, especially surgeons? I have no flipping idea. I know it’s an admiration thing since docs have this mystique thing going on by the merits of their jobs. To this day, it still boggles my mind to think that a surgeon can open someone up, rummage around, cut and snip a few things and close the person back up. And they live! I mean, I always have left-over pieces when I finish a project, don’t you? I’d be the type that would close up and discover I forgot to put the liver back in.

It’s a noble profession. Despite patients who hurl invectives that would peel paint off the wall, docs still go in and do the job. I have to admit that in my day job, if a submitting writer is a total snot bag to me, I have the luxury of finding a rejection slip pretty darn fast. So this world of walking dichotomies intrigued me, and I wanted to get inside their heads to see what they feel – if they feel. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised and honored to be allowed into their world to see their vulnerabilities, their fears, their heartbreaks, and their triumphs. Because of their openness, I was able to create a foundation upon which to build the story that had been burning inside for a long time.

Gee, I suppose in retrospect it would have been easier to simply point the woman in the bookstore to my blog, huh?

Photo: Special thanks to Dave Page, M.D., author of Body Trauma: The Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries. He returns all the body parts where they belong, too.

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